Long before “mentor text” was the latest education buzz word, there were teachers, including me, who used picture books as a way to spark our students imaginations when they were writing. I have always used picture books because I love to read, and I felt that reading authentic literature would help my students become authentic writers. One of my favorite writing lessons to teach involved using picture books to introduce topics for persuasive writing and point of view. During my first year teaching second grade, I used The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs, by Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith. It was a great way to introduce persuasive writing and writing from a different point of view.
Persuasive Writing: Mr. Wolf’s Story
I started the lesson by asking my students to recall the story of The Three Little Pigs. Once we discussed the story details, I then posed the question, “What would the story be like if it was told by the wolf?” This was a great discussion moment. It gave my students the opportunity to explore how the villain of the story would feel about the events in the story.
I would then read Scieszka and Smith’s book. Now my students not only had a different perspective but a plausible argument that could help the wolf gain his “freedom.” When I first used this book, I was surprised and pleased at the responses I received from my students. In fact, we expanded this lesson to include a mock-trial with the wolf as a defendant. We even had parents come in to act as jurors and a dad who was a lawyer to act as a judge. (It was awesome!) When I did this same lesson, I received similar responses and reactions.
Maybe Mr. Wolf is Innocent…
After we read and discussed the wolf’s point of view, I had my students choose an argument they were willing to support. I then explained that based on their argument, they would complete a “Free” or “Wanted Poster” for the Wolf. My students could choose the poster they preferred. The only requirement was they needed to support their argument with text evidence.
I have to say, every time I have done this activity in my classroom, there were more students for the wolf than against the wolf. My students also understood pronoun choice when writing from a character’s point of view. It was a great and fun lesson! I have included the sheets I used below.
Once my students wrote their final drafts, they chose a picture from Mr. Wolf that reflected their argument. My students were very serious about supporting their arguments with strong text evidence. This proved that given a creative opportunity, even second graders could come up with strong persuasive arguments.
You can find my lesson plan and companion pages for the True Story of the 3 Little Pigs, Wanted Wolf or Free Wolf! at my store Chalkspot.com this website.
An Ant Needs Help Too…
Another picture book I have used for persuasive writing is Hey Little Ant by Philip and Hannah Hoose. It is a cute story about an ant pleading with a little boy for his life. Not only do you hear the ant’s point of view through his argument for staying alive, you also see the little boy from the ant’s perspective.
I photocopied the page where the ant was larger than the kid. I used this picture as a header for my students’ persuasive letter trying to convince the boy to spare his life.
Mentor text or picture book, the goal is the same: using great literature to encourage our students to become stronger writers and to empathize with different points of views.
You can find my “Wanted Wolf, Free Wolf” at my website store Chalkspot.com and on Teachers Notebook and Teachers Pay Teachers.
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